First of all, I want to thank everyone who leapt to my defense when an anonymous commenter decided to excoriate me for...well, for pretty much everything I do here. It was a very strange experience after almost two solid years of blogging, to finally receive the sort of nastiness that every blogger and internet writer knows is potentially coming their way at any moment. I immediately went on Facebook and posted, "I just got my first nasty comment. I'm a REAL blogger now!" And I was only being a little bit facetious with that remark. Because when a blog like this one is new, the readership is pretty small and self-selecting. But in the last few months, the number of visitors has almost tripled, maybe even more, and that means the chances of getting the Anonymous Commenter from Hell have risen right along with it. Most bloggers who have even a modicum of success will get this, and I have a feeling humor bloggers get it with a particular venom, since what we do is particularly easy for the less intelligent among us to misunderstand, and the willfully mean among us to exploit.
What made me sad about the whole thing - and I am utterly to blame for it, since I drew everyone's attention to it on FB - is that we all just gave Anonymous exactly what she wanted. I guarantee you that nothing anybody said made her think twice about what she had done or prevented her from doing it again, to me or someone else, in the future. Because people like Anonymous love to stir the pot, they love to be self-righteous, they live for being indignant and being "misunderstood" by everyone who "focussed on the perceived criticism and totally missed out on the positive intent." I have known many, many people like this. When I worked as an optician, these were the people I kept my radar out for, because they had the most potential to make life for me and my employees quite miserable. But I learned quickly that the best way to deal with them, though I wanted so badly to point out all the reasons they were wrong and then kick them out of the shop, was to never for one second let them see or think that they were getting to me.
But that was eyewear, which I didn't actually give a damn about, and this is writing, which I care about deeply, and though I am continuing to do what I said we shouldn't, I have to be honest - she got to me. But not because I think anything she said is true (and, oh, the essays I composed in my head that day - taking each "point" she made and tearing it down, with so much evidence to back me up. I even fantasized about taking video of my husband while I asked him just what he does think of me talking about our financial situation online, and oh, that would have been SO GOOD), but because the situation highlighted for me what the difficulties are in putting words out there for the world to read, and for a moment - just a moment, but long enough to matter - I wondered whether I was capable of handling it.
See, when I started the blog, I was as anonymous as our friend. People knew my name was Megan, but that was about it. And anonymity gives you an incredible amount of freedom. For me, someone who had wanted to write all her life but never pursued it seriously for many reasons, anonymity gave me the ability to write without censoring myself. Knowing that there were people out there who could read what I wrote, but whom I would never know, allowed me to to write freely, in my own voice, for the first time. I wasn't trying to impress my parents anymore, or a potential employer or publisher. I only had to please myself, and if other people came along for the ride, great. And the fact that people did come along, and were encouraging, kept me going.
But there comes a point when enough people are reading and commenting, and sending emails telling me not only that they love the blog but that it has been important to them in some way, that it's much harder to maintain that distance, that feeling of freedom. No matter how much I tell myself that this is MY blog to do with as I damn well please, I can't help but feel a sense of obligation. I want to give you what you come here for, and when I fall short of that, it bothers me.
And then the Quilter's Home articles started coming out, and when they began doing the contributor bio pages and my blog address was published, things changed even more. Not only was I getting more readers, both casual visitors as well as new followers, but people I know started to read this. My parents, aunts and uncles, in-laws. There's a guy I dated for like a week in college (hi, Tom!) who reads this, because I started the Facebook fan page and he noticed. I get emails from people saying, hey I think I know who you are - you used to work at ------, right? And you know my friend/neighbor/third cousin." So now the sphere of people who could misunderstand everything I say and/or disapprove of me for it had just blown up. And these people could make my real life miserable, not just my online one. It's daunting. And as much as I didn't want it to, it changed things; it limited the subjects I could comfortably write about in a public blog. There is much now that I do not tell you, that I probably would have a year ago.
Lately, I have been immersed in writing other things. I just finished a humor piece that I hope to submit to Smithsonian magazine, and I have others for other publications in progress. I'm also working on a novel, one that I've had the story for in my head for over ten years. I still have my regular Quilter's Home gig, plus on occasion they give me a straight-up feature to write. Sometimes writing the blog is difficult, because so much of my energy is going into other projects. Those other projects do not come easily, and I spend a lot of my days with my head in my hands thinking, "I can't do this."
So, I think what I am trying to say with all of this is that I am trying to find my way back to that mental place I had not so long ago, where I wrote only to please myself and not anyone else. It's not easy. It means sometimes writing things that some of you won't like. Some of you will feel obligated to let me know that. Some of you will be sure to let me know that you do like it. And in both cases, I have to try to not care so much. Perhaps you can see why that's a bit hard on the psyche sometimes.
But thanks for sticking around and for sticking up for me. It's hard to be bitchy with friends like you.
Oh, and before I forget: fuck. I couldn't let you go without going for a cheap laugh, now could I?